Taken from the bloodied journal of William Elbridge
I had struck me, in the night; the cold and unsuspecting wind. I awoken with a start, my skin crawling; suspecting the creature’s presence I darted upright, drawing my recently acquired Lancaster pistol.
“Who is there?” I wiped the cold sweat from my brow. “I demand that you show yourself.”
The silenced remained, save only for the faint desert winds. I waited, the folds of my tent dancing gracefully. After a minute of chilling anticipation I settled back into my covers.
I camped little more than a mile from Garni temple, my journey had been long, but alas I had arrived. I had been so busy, in fact, that I have not written in this battered journal for the last few days. I have set up and studied all that I may; the tent and pistol alone cost me my reserve Laudanum, but it was indeed necessary. I wait; the journey to Garni, I was told, should be taken by day.
I think back to the steaming city of London, of all the misdoings and torments that occur; I can honestly say that I do not miss the scenes and clatters in the slightest. Rather, I have turned my gaze off into the unknown; Armenia and Turkey could be the start of a miraculous life, one that I could govern in peaceful isolation? Dangerous thinking William, you know that. I wonder, if I would be missed? Of course, I had not left a legacy to speak of. There is a peculiar thing, something that humans tend to exhibit, time and time again; adversity. It seems, whether you are trying to subsist in the nadirs of the desert or in the bleakest conurbation, humans will endeavor to stand against the tide. One might say that they do not have a say in the matter, but I believe it is the contrary; all of us, man woman and child have the capacity and the desire to choose, yet we chose to stand where even nature has fallen. I digress. I would be lying if I said that I am not afraid of what I might find at the temple, I feel as though every living fiber in my body wishes me to travel in the opposite direction. I shall stand against the tide.
The sun rose, seemingly in an instant. I covered my eyes as the glare peered through the tent folds.
“Blasted light.” I groaned before leaping to my feet. “Not even God will let me rest.”
Time pressed, and I packed what I could; vast possibilities swept about me, the calm presence of the desert’s awe dissipating, the adrenaline flowed strong. To my honor I protest the fear that lay just underneath, I was possessed by my curiosity; the Temple drew near.
Panting frantically I managed to climb atop one of the larger dunes, head of my the Temple’s complex stood; its surrounding beleaguered by the vestiges of Dr. Gradstein’s encampment. As I’m sure you can appreciate, a prolonged excursion such as this; waiting as long as I had, brought me close to tears. Garni, it was a splendor; the towering temple stood semi-hollow, stone from the ceiling had fallen but the structure remained; one large enigmatic chamber. Entering the threshold of the abandoned camp was a tremendously harrowing occurrence. I could almost catch the shrieks and absconding, the odd scrap of attire and the sand worn skeletons that loitered conducted an icy chill down my back. I was in the presence of the men who had fallen at the hands of Col. Thompson.
“Dear God.” I exclaimed.
Such despondency and grievance, such forlorn emotion trapped within the large stonewalls of the temple. I had paid homage, my respect to those who fell victim to the very creature I had fallen victim to. Fathom it, if you can, the screams in the dead of night; the scraping and lambasting, now where to run but into the arms of the unforgiving desert. Pity is not the word I would use, but I tussle now to even envisage gathering the emotions I felt, it was beyond such feasible lexis.
The climb to the top of the temple’s stairs conjured images of the past, worshipers of the supposed ‘dragon god’ amassing to pray and venerate. Gazing inwards, the temple lay in ruin; various images of diamond-framed demons covered the walls, inexplicably picturesque. Such evil, such holy evil? What had driven those parishioners to produce such a demonic accolade that drew Dr. Gradstein in? How was it possible?
I entered, scanning the various walls and statues; it truly was a marvel, though I did not see anything that could pertain to the creature’s manifestation. I saw images of congregations, and images of dragons, anxieties and terrors. The search was long, but alas I saw the image I needed to see; a priest, chiefly and revered. His image was centered around the demonstration of some form of human sacrifice, the removal of organs and the placing of such into large ceramic jars. I repeated aloud.
“The removal of organs?”
Inch by inch the wall revealed its secrets, the jars were stored amongst the grounds of the temple, the accursed hidden from the world. The reasons for doing so were unclear; I scrambled for more answers, but could not discern the ancient language carved into the great stone that stood before me. I wandered about the site, taking in all I could before a tile on the ground caught my eye. I resembled the sculptures on the wall, though a faint breeze seemed to emanate from the corners, placing my fingers into the crevasse I noticed that the tile was slightly loose. Tugging lightly at first I was able to pries a section off, before a loud quivering crash, delimited me and floor gave way, seconds past before I befell complete darkness, the fall was great, and all awareness appeared to halt.
I awoke to the sound of tumbling debris; the pitter-pattering raising my battered head from the dust beneath me. I pulled my self to my feet, a tenderness in my leg and shoulder caused me to groan in pain, though it was my head that bore the full intensity of the injury, blood clotted and seeped through a cranial wound.
“Jesus.” I cried, placing my hand to my head.
As my surroundings slowly came into focus, I could see a series of large tunnels, one of which I had fallen into. I shook the remnants of giddiness from my head and sensed the dank inhospitable quality of this place. Such a smell, horrific and repugnant; a distant cousin to the odor I had experienced before. I proceeded down the tunnel, no light source to bear; feeling my way down these narrow corridors, my awkward shuffling and heavy breathing the only sounds to accompany me.
I am unsure how far I traveled before I became aware of my injury; the dizzying brunt of my head wound became overwhelming, heaving in agony I emptied my stomach of its contents on the cold stone floor. Survival seemed a vague possibility. I felt around some more, my hands caressing the grooves and dips with in the wall, I was fearful, unreservedly. Though I am unsure what possessed me to do so I cast out my voice in the hopes of rescue.
“Hello?” I coughed. “Is there anybody here?”
The endless tunnels claimed me; I had no idea where I was, nor where I could go. I stopped, remembering that I had a small pack of matched within my pocket, striking the first a flash of light revealed a dark tunnel laced with a thin mucus that covered the floor; no doubt the source of the smell. I shuffled further down the tunnel, using the diminutive light that I had, more of the inscriptions lay either side of me; the images a far more haunting and gruesome display. Had I discovered what Dr. Gradstein had been searching for? If so, then my answers would without qualm be answered before long.
I approached a cross-junction, to find a series of crates piled on top of each other, their origin was far to modern for the ancient Armenian’s to have placed, as I approached, I caught the most horrifying churn that I have ever beheld the misfortune of hearing. The putrid gargle and groan forced me to extinguish the match and take shelter amongst the crates; I remained clandestine in unmitigated darkness panting as soundlessly as I could, begging. After another gargle, I could hear heavy footsteps draw closer, and closer still; the gargling grew louder, my heart raced and I begged that the noise had not come from behind me. Fear, is recoiling at the sight of a blade, what I experienced, hiding amid the crates remained something that absconded all vocabulary; I was powerless to fathom the swine that approached. So close now, the steps send tremors through the stone floor; I can here the guttural sounds as if there were adjacent to my very ear. Foul churnings and meanings echoed about the dark, until they passed by in an unknown direction. I dare not move for fear of calling the abomination toward me. The room drew silent, I remained, still as my body would allow.
I advanced, against my better judgment, down the tunnels, eschewing the matches, using my ears and fingertips to navigate. As I saw a light emerge, I beheld a large subversive oratory of ageless foundation, the stalwarts and stone carvings of a sacred nature, and a large skylight, which a singular beam shone. It was beautiful, serene and perfect. I entered to see the surrounding area aligned with large ceramic pots; the resting place for the ‘profane’ organs that had possessed the people of the dragon god. I paced toward one, lifting the large lid, with difficulty to reveal copious beige liquescent, soaking into various black fleshes. I had seen this before, the jar of the creature’s infliction. I stepped back, agape, I had discovered the means by which the creature had imparted the foul flesh into my body. I felt sick, I retreated further, sitting against the stone pew; how had the flesh of the ancient Armenians survived? What evil had taken place here? What lay inside my body?
I wept, under the pressure of it all I wept; what could I do with such information? I needed to escape this place, and reach the surface. Scaling the chapel was not an impossible feat, but the climb itself would prove difficult.
“There must be a way.” I bellowed.
If somebody in recent years had been able to slog crates into this shadowy sepulcher, then certainly there must be a simpler way out.
Alas, the jinx of my outcry had dammed me to once again receive the raucous gurgling grunt return. My presence froze, I stood, eyes broad, in unreserved dread; the sound had appeared from the passage that I had wandered down. I exhorted great care to, quietly move into the shadowy corner of the chapel, facing the entrance. The resonances subsided, at first; I began to feel composed, perhaps the debaser had retreated? To my horror the sounds drew closer, louder and more graphic, I compacted my form as tightly as I could behind one of the large ironstone container.
“Please god.” I whispered. “Do not let this demon see me.”
I saw it, I will certainly not behold such corpulent revulsion; the monster stood taller than any man I had seen before. The behemoth's gut and appendages concealed in a copious reddish-black liquid and its face, its rancid face bore no resemblance to a man or organism of this world; I saw the cadaverous bleached eyes that exuded a grey liquid constantly. It halted briefly groaning and sniffing the air, the sounds turned my stomach; I held as still as I have ever done so. To see it move, was an unbearable sight; the ripples of split flesh and throbbing cysts made all the more vivid. With another grunt the creature moved on, dragging the putrefaction of its appendage behind itself.
I exhaled heavily, wishing only that I could escape this vile place. With such a creature patrolling; I began to wonder if I would ever escape.